Measuring up

I was talking the other day with a teacher friend about how other teachers make them perceive themselves. They were reflecting on how a new colleague in their school seemed to be so on top of things compared to their own practice. As I find many teachers are prone to doing, they were beating themselves up about how this person compared to them.

In discussing this it became apparent that one of the main things that made them feel this way was the immaculate state of their classroom and the excellent, learning focused displays.

It is easy to look on other peoples practice and feel inadequate, everyone can seem to be more on top of things than you, but often it really comes down to your priorities. Everyone has a mental list of what they think is most important in their practice, the problem is that it is easy to think everyone else is working from the same list that you are.

Take this new member of staff, their list may look something like the one below.

They are obviously doing well in the top two areas, but it has to be remembered that these are their highest priorities. Perhaps by the third item on the list they feel they are still working to master things.

However, this person could look very different when viewed from outside by someone whose internal list looks like this:

The problem is that this person sees the fantastic looking classroom and presumes that the person in question has already dealt with all the things that they personally give a higher priority. It is easy to assume that if the classroom looks great the learner independence is high and the planning is excellent. Not necessarily.

In fact, the tidy and organised teacher may well still be working on things which the other has more mastery of, and feels are more important.

So, before you start beating yourself up, remember to define what you think is most important to your practice. You can’t be perfect at everything, so it is vital to define what your priorities and values are. Do this and you might find you measure up better than you thought.

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7 thoughts on “Measuring up

  1. I do agree with you Oliveer. It is really difficult when you are new though to decide what should be the priority. Often we take others as our own at first. It is nice to see a reasonably tidy room but it about the work bieng done!

  2. That’s a very thougthful piece of writing. A tidy classroom and vibrant displays are also the ‘public face’ of your classroom/area. They act as a shop window and as such can draw admiring comments from passers by, however, as you point out, this is only one part of a teacher’s job – the inspiring lessons, meticulous assessment, promotion of individual learning etc are not ‘shop window’ areas yet these are equally important to learning in a school. It is important that as well as class teachers recognising this so do SMT and LEA advisors when highlighting good practice in schools.

  3. Great post, Oliver! Very timely for Sydney teachers to think about. How do you prioritise aims/goals at the start of a term and do they change over time? It’s the rare teacher who can hit all the notes absolutely right every single day. Those that can are often trying to aim higher and farther as they achieve each goal too. Its funny how you can walk past some classrooms that are dead quiet and think “wow, they must be working hard!” and then a very noisy classroom thinking that it might be a wasted lesson. A lot of the time it can be the reverse.

    1. Thanks for the comment Matt. That is very true, as is the opposite. As someone who values talk and the positive aspects of a noisy classroom, I have to make sure I don’t take a biased point of view towards the nature of learning in a quiet one. Questioning your own assumptions regularly is key, I think.

  4. I think a good classroom would always have both – louder times when discussing,problem solving,talking over ideas etc. But also quiet focused times for writing. I certainly can’t concentrate on writing in a noisy environment, and some children are very sensitive to noise. So I’d judge the noise level by its appropriateness to the lesson. Sadly some SMT would like all lessons to be silent working which can cause real problems.

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